Statue Unveiled: Ida B. Wells reclaims her place on Beale Street

Ida B. Wells Day today: Statue is unveiled at Beale and Fourth, capping a week and a day of celebration, education, reflection

“We present you, Miss Ida B. Wells, back on Beale Street, never to leave again.”

The pronouncement from Dr. L. LaSimba Gray, Jr., chairperson of the Ida B. Wells Memphis Memorial Foundation, came moments after the July 16 unveiling of the Ida B. Wells statue on the corner of Beale and Fourth. His pronouncement capped a day of speakers and rousing speeches, and a parade up Beale Street from Main Street to the new Ida B. Wells Plaza.

And while the ceremony of speakers, guests of honor and the unveiling took place under the cover of partly-cloudy skies, occasional light rain showers and near the shadows of the FedEx Forum, Ida B. Wells’ return to Beale Street assures that her legacy in Memphis will never be under any shadows again.

Dr. L. LaSimba Gray Jr., far left, watches over the unveiling of the Ida B. Wells statue.

Ida B. Wells was “run out of town for stirring the Negroes up” – the Beale Street offices of her newspaper Free Speech and Headlight were burned down by white mobs determined to kill her – after her 1892 reporting on the brutal lynchings of three men at the People’s Grocery.

But today, on her 159th birthday, the bronze statue in her likeness marks her return to Memphis, her former hometown, and rights a historic wrong.

Ida B. Wells great-granddaughter Michelle Duster, left and next to the Ida B. Wells statue, poses moments after the unveiling of the bronze likeness that now looks out onto Beale Street.

Guests and speakers included a host of local leaders and members of the Ida B. Wells family, and featured an impassioned sermon by Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, Executive Director of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Ida B. Wells legacy in Memphis can be seen throughout Memphis; here’s where else her presence can be felt.

For more information or to donate, go to the Ida B. Wells Memphis Memorial Committee

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